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Freedom near for colleges

Calcutta, Nov. 9: Promised for years, autonomy is now expected to be bestowed on Bengal’s top colleges by the end of 2005.

“As things stand, we should be able to grant autonomy to deserving colleges by December 31,” Satyasadhan Chakraborty, state higher education minister, said.

Presidency College and St. Xavier’s have been on the autonomy board, but which of them is going to get it ' or if both will be granted it at the same time ' is not yet known.

Autonomy should mean freedom to conduct academic and administrative affairs independent of the influence the CPM now exerts on the entire education system.

Calcutta University, to which the colleges are affiliated, has been told by the state government to implement the decision quickly.

“It is desirable that a decision on granting autonomous status to either Presidency or St. Xavier’s or both the institutions is taken without further delay and a recommendation containing the name/s of the institution/s is forwarded to the government by December 31,” it has said.

Once autonomy is granted, the university will lose its control over the colleges, which will set their own syllabus and conduct their own exams. Only the degree given will bear the names of both the college and the university.

More important, the colleges will be able to fix their own fees and accept private funding. This will enable the institutions to gradually move towards financial independence, though autonomy as of now does not mean end to government assistance.

Education officials said the Left-controlled lobbies of teachers and employees which had been holding up the autonomy proposal had called off their resistance.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has said openly he has not been able to carry out education reforms because of interference by the party.

“It is unfortunate that we have not been able to do so (grant autonomy) to a single college,” Chakraborty said.

The largest teachers’ lobby declined to comment, but sources said it was trying to set up a meeting with the government.

Suranjan Das, pro vice-chancellor (academic affairs) of the university, said they were waiting for a formal advice from the government to put the seal on the move for which preliminary work had been completed.

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